CONSUMERS of Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority yet again complain that the supply water is not safe for direct consumption. People living in Old Town of Dhaka, at a meeting with the authorities on Saturday, raised a list of concern that includes the dirty and smelly quality of supply water. They also talked about the cumbersome process of bill payment and price increase at almost regular intervals. The digitisation and automation process appear not to have improved services of the supply water agency. Residents say that they had for long faced a severe supply shortage and now the supply has improved, but the water is unsafe. The agency chief at the meeting, however, insisted that they have now addressed the supply shortage and the water at source is fully drinkable and it becomes contaminated during piped distribution. It is welcome that the authorities have created space for consumers to raise their concern. But it is not enough as the problem persists.
Consumers have for long complained of supply shortage and unsafe water. In 2018, a Transparency International Bangladesh survey report said that 91 per cent of consumers boil water for drinking and burn gas worth Tk 332 crore a year for the purpose. A large number of supply water consumers also suffer from various waterborne diseases because of the poor quality of water. The report also said that nearly 62 per cent of service-seekers faced corruption and other irregularities in the agency. The failure to ensure a steady supply of quality water, however, did not stop the authorities from increasing the tariff. In a year and a half, the authorities increased water tariff twice, adding to the living cost. In 2020, when consumers complained of the unsafe supply of water, the authorities said, as they say now, that the water is safe at source and that they have started implementing the district metered area project, which will improve the water quality. Although the project to improve the supply water, supported by the Asian Development Bank, has been in implementation for a while now, citizens are yet to enjoy benefits.
The supply water authorities must, therefore, address the problem of quality and supply shortage with due importance. It is the responsibility of the authorities concerned to maintain the distribution pipes and stop contamination. Consumers should no longer suffer because of the inefficiency of the agency. Rajdhani Unnayan Kartipakkha should, meanwhile, maintain a conservative policy when approving real estate projects as unplanned and uncoordinated urbanisation is one of the main reasons for the water scarcity. In the long term, the authorities should explore water sources, including rainwater harvesting, to reduce heavy dependency on groundwater for domestic use.
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